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Updates on the 18th SAARC Summit On Social Media

The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.

Here are some examples:

Too Many Under Trial Detainees in India's Jails

Overflowing water from a septic tank has poured into a Rail Police (G.R.P.) Lockup at Burdwan Rail Station.  People kept in the lockup are finding it very difficult to stay there. Image by Sanjoy Carmaker. Copyright Demotix (18/10/2013)

Overflowing water from a septic tank has poured into a Rail Police (G.R.P.) Lockup at Burdwan Rail Station. People kept in the lockup are finding it very difficult to stay there. Image by Sanjoy Carmaker. Copyright Demotix (18/10/2013)

Indian alternative news portal Beyond Headlines sheds light on the darker side of India's judiciary. In India, of all people detained in lockups and state prisons there are more people under trial than convicts.

Because of the slow process of the judiciary process, thousands of people suspected or accused of a crime end up waiting for trial for years in cramped prison cells which lack electricity, food and other necessities. About 250,000 men and women in India are currently in jail without having been proven guilty. Their fate or innocence is bound by the course of their trials.

And who and where are all these detainees? These tweets explain:

Freeing the detainees awaiting trial is also not a good option, as Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Shishir Bail write in the Hindu: “Without substantive reforms to the investigation and trial process, early release of undertrials may further aggravate the pathologically low rates of conviction and incarceration in the Indian criminal justice system.”

Blogger Argues Corporate Sponsorship Cheapening Bangaldeshi Folk Culture

Devotees of Fakir Lalon Shah, also known as Lalon Shah (c.1774–1890), a Bengali philosopher poet, come to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death. Kustia, Bangladesh, 18/10/2009. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix

Devotees of Fakir Lalon Shah, a Bengali philosopher poet, come to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death. Cheuria, Kustia, Bangladesh, 18/10/2009. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix

If we look back the history of Bangladesh, we see examples of ancient kings and land lords who sponsored cultural activities, making literature, music and art flourish in the region. In the present era, we see affluent corporations, mostly telecom companies in Bangladesh, taking their place.

They have been going the extra mile to sponsor a wide variety of cultural pursuits, including a rural festival celebrating Fakir Lalon Shah (c. 1774–1890), a popular Bengali baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker, but not always with positive reception.

Zahid Islam at the blog Alal O Dulal explains how corporations are selling the Lalon culture:

In 2007 for the first time in history, Lalon Phokir’s Dol Uthshob (Lalon's Dol Festival) was held under sponsorship, with promotion campaigns so aggressive and ill designed it disgusts me to even remember it. Since then Grameenphone and Banglalink (telecom brands) took turns in sponsoring the festivals.

He also mentions that Lalon festival is getting a modern shape under corporate banner:

The first time around, those of us who had been visiting Cheuria for many years, were shocked to find the sponsorship junks.

And the need to protect their sanctity:

There are many people and organisations, home and abroad, that feel we need to “protect” the baul way of life. I do not necessarily agree with this notion. Rather I feel our intervention is what creates most of the “problems.”

Security Risks Exposed at Amusement Park in Dhaka

During the Eid holidays, Carnival Park at Jamuna Future park welcomed a large number of visitors. On October 7, 2014, one of its attractions, the 360-degree shuffle ride, stopped in the middle of a ride. Everyone on-board was stuck in their seats for about an hour. The ride had no emergency backup system, preventing a normal shutdown, delaying the release of its riders. Rescue workers had to free every individual manually, in a rather painstaking process.

Facebook user Sultanul Nahian Hasnat was present at the mishap and later uploaded to Facebook two videos (click her to watch the 1st and the 2nd), which went viral. These are now available on YouTube, also.

There was no mention of this incident in the local mainstream news.

The Curious Case Of Marrying Out Of Caste in India

Protest March in UK demanding to eradicate the centuries-old caste system that exists on the Indian sub continent and amongst expatriate communities. Image by Paul Davey. Copyright Demotix (19/10/2013)

Protest March in UK demanding to eradicate the centuries-old caste system that exists on the Indian sub continent and amongst expatriate communities. Image by Paul Davey. Copyright Demotix (19/10/2013)

Karthik Shashidhar, a freelance management consultant and data scientist, shares interesting statistics from the National Family Health Survey. Shashidhar discusses the percentage of women in India who are married to someone of their own caste. The caste system in India is based on an order of (predominantly) endogamous groups rendering marriage out of caste deplored by the society. Most of the marriage out of caste is out of love and defying the socio-cultural norms.

The survey, which was carried out in all states in India, asked “ever-married” women whether they were married to someone from the same caste, or to someone from a higher caste, or to someone from a lower caste. The result shows that the national average for the percentage of women who are married to someone of their own caste is 89%.

Infographic: 5 Facts About Sri Lanka’s Tamil Community in the North

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a civil society think tank in Sri Lanka, has recently conducted a top line survey on “Democracy in post-war Sri Lanka 2014“. The results show that difference of opinion on the reconciliation still exists between the Tamil and the Sinhalese people after the Sri Lankan civil war.

The findings from the survey with regard to the Tamil community is very significant. Their key issues are poverty and unemployment and they feel deprived having very little say about the affairs of the country. Here is an infographic depicting their plights:

Infographic courtesy of Centre For Policy Alternatives

Infographic courtesy of Centre For Policy Alternatives

Mumbai School Children Have Big Ideas About Technology and Innovation

A screen grab of the video (click the photo to watch)

A screen grab of the video (click the photo to watch)

The author @sutarcv works as a communications co-ordinator with Atma.

Children from a local municipal school in Mumbai voice their opinions on inventions, technology, environment and money in a recent video from Atma, an education non-profit organization whose mission is to support initiatives that help underprivileged children in India. 

This video gives insight into what's going on in the minds of children studying at local municipal schools, many of who face challenging circumstances like living in a bad neighborhood or having to deal with an alcoholic parent, for instance.

One girl wants to invent technology that can help a man to fly at his will. Another wants to invent a wallet in which the money never ends. As far as technology goes, it seems these children at this municipal school are enthusiastic about it. They know about messaging service WhatsApp, email and Google, but it also appears from the conversations of children that their access to Internet is limited.  

Inish Merchant commented on the Atma Facebook post with the video saying:

I wish govt. schools start giving IT lessons as a part of their syllabus.

The most fascinating responses is on an hypothetical question — what would they do if they had lots of money? Some said they will save it for their parents, while others said they will donate it or help people with a disability. There are also a few who said they will build something for themselves first and then make something for others.  

Prateek U Keshari,  a communications specialist with Make A Difference, a non-profit organization that works with street children and orphans, wrote:

This is beautiful! Only if more adults looked for the possibility of ideas through the eyes of a kid! 

An Indian Photoblogger's Lone Fight Against Plagiarism

Term of copyright in photographs:- Length of copyright -50 years. Graphics by Anirban Saha. Used with Permission.

Term of copyright in photographs:- Length of copyright -50 years. Graphics by Anirban Saha. Used with Permission.

Indian photoblogger Anirban Saha points to a growing problem in India — plagiarism of intellectual property online. A number of his photos were used in a poster for a theatre festival, on a cover of a book, in an advertisement by the state government, in political banners, in magazines in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and a school publication without his consent.

He writes that Indian copyright laws protect intellectual property, but there is not much awareness:

We can spread the awareness of intellectual property rights, share contact details of lawyers who have already fought similar cases. We should be more aware of safeguarding our creations and spreading the awareness to create a better world. Read about Indian Copyright Act 1957. More than the artists who still now are a minority, it is you readers who can make a difference. You need to be aware and spread the awareness.

Anirban Saha also publishes a number of graphics to make the Indian copyright laws easier to understand.

In new iOS, Apple Introduces Five Indic Language Input Methods

A comparison of some Indic scripts vs. Latin. Image via wikipedia . CC BY-SA 3.0

A comparison of some Indic scripts vs. Latin. Image via wikipedia . CC BY-SA 3.0

In September 2014, Apple has launched the newest version of iOS 8, an operating system for its iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. Apart from other major additions for better usability, iOS 8 has a very important feature for non-Latin script based languages, native input. This was missing since long and will be a great advantage for the languages – lot many people will easily be able to type in their own languages. Be it microblogging, social media, email or contributing to any platform like Wikipedia, there was a lack of native inputs for a long time after the first iOS was launched. iOS 8 has support for 5 Indic scripts: Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu for the first time since the launch of the Apple gadgets in the Indian subcontinent. Apart from language inputs, iOS also allows a user to change the interface language partially/fully to the user's native language which will better usability among many Asian users.

Facebook user Jayanta Nath is excited abut this addition:

After update (of) iOS 8, it has added bengali default keyboards.

How Entrepreneurship Helped a Bangladeshi Girl Avoid Child Marriage

Bangladeshi blogger Raad Rahman tells the story of a girl in rural Bangladesh who avoided a forced child marriage after she started a grocery shop using a small grant from a local non-government organisation. She was going to be married off to her neighbour's son because her family could no longer support her financially.

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